Optimizing Apparel Development to Reduce Waste

EPA Grant Number: SU836784
Title: Optimizing Apparel Development to Reduce Waste
Investigators: Cobb, Kelly Ann
Current Investigators: Cobb, Kelly Ann , Cao, Huantian
Institution: University of Delaware
EPA Project Officer: Klieforth, Barbara I
Phase: I
Project Period: November 1, 2016 through October 31, 2017 (Extended to August 31, 2018)
Project Amount: $14,999
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2016) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Awards , P3 Challenge Area - Chemical Safety


Combine 3D virtual-prototyping technology with the Material Sustainability Index (developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition) to increase efficiency and reduce waste starting at the apparel development stage.  


The Fashion Industry is a highly complex, global, ever-changing system. The amount of textile waste in U.S. landfills has grown at more than three times the rate of overall waste volumes for all materials. Between 2000 and 2011, textile waste increased 38% environmental impacts, the generation of significant amount of solid waste. The production, use and disposal of over 19 billion garments per year causes significant environmental and human health problems. Large Apparel companies such as NIKE are mapping their waste streams and findings suggest it is most effective to reduce waste at the development stage rather than use resources to manage unneeded materials downstream in the supply chain. Our project focuses on the reduction of product waste at the initial development stage, a strategy in direct alignment with pollution prevention, a goal central to The EPA mission. Our goal is to demonstrate the efficacy of waste reduction in apparel production through increased efficiency in the product development phase with the use of a 3D technology. According to a 2010 report by Nike, over 16,000 materials are used in apparel and footwear products each year. A pair of shoes alone can use more than 30 materials Sustainable Apparel Coalition has developed material sustainability index (MSI) that can help companies choose the best fabrications of textiles. Our vision is to mesh the possibilities of virtual prototyping with MSI data. Our objectives include; (a) operational investigations (virtual prototyping and MSI data); (b) develop tool that meshes 3D CAD with MSI data; (c) generate virtual apparel using tool; (d) develop physical prototypes; (e) evaluate the environmental and economic impacts of our products (g) develop educational tools.


Our project proposes that waste reduction in apparel production can be achieved through increased efficiency in the product development phase by the utilization of 3D technology, the benefit of using 3D technology is that problems can be solved prior to generating physical waste. As well, we propose to embed material sustainability data into the 3D prototyping system serving to educate product creation teams to use environmentally better materials. The Index assesses material impacts in the areas energy, chemistry, water and waste. Guided by Industry partner Optitex, students will work together to investigate the potential of virtual prototyping by customizing a virtual fabric library based on measurements of textile mechanical property data from a variety of knit and woven constructed fabrics. Students will refer to MSI data during fabric selection, developing 3D virtual textile structures via a process called “texture mapping” to virtual garments using Optitex (CAD) software. Concurrent with virtual garment construction, students will construct physical garment samples out of selected textile materials, utilizing both knit and woven substrates. Students will analyze the virtual apparel prototypes through additional tests. Students will measure potential waste reductions of virtual apparel prototype production in contrast to physical apparel prototype production. Based on findings, students will develop recommendations in optimizing apparel product development via virtual prototyping methods.

Expected Results:

The expected results and outputs of this project will include a prototype of a hybrid 3D/MSI System in the form of an app or plug in; a report on the virtual prototyping research and recommendations on product development solutions with the use of 3D/MSI hybrid models to minimize product waste; textile mechanical property report; virtual apparel prototypes produced by Optitex (CAD) software; as well as physical apparel product prototype.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

interactive development tools, computer generated alternatives, waste reduction, material sustainability, design model for sustainability.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2017 Progress Report
  • Final Report